I think this is worth sharing: Yeonmi Park tells her story of life in North Korea and calls for action against such human rights violators. Yeonmi was speaking at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin.
“I have to do this because this is not me speaking. This is the people who want to tell the world what they want to say. North Korea is an unimaginable country. There is only one channel on TV. There is only one Internet. We aren’t afraid to sing, say, wear, or think what we want. North Korea is the only country in the world that executes people for making unauthorized international phone calls. North Koreans are being terrorized today. When I was growing up in North Korea, I never saw anything about love stories between men and women. No books, no songs, no press. No movies about love stories.
There is no Romeo and Juliet. Every story was propaganda to brainwash us about the Kim dictators. I was born in 1993 and I was abducted at birth, even before I knew the words freedom or human rights. North Korea is so desperately seeking and dying for freedom at this moment. When I was nine years old, I saw my friend’s mother publicly executed. Her crime: watching a Hollywood movie. Expressing doubt about the cruelness of the regime can get three generations of a family imprisoned or executed. When I was four years old, I was warned by my mother not to even whisper.
The birds and mice couldn’t hear me. I admit it. I thought the North Korean dictator could read my mind. My father died in China after we escaped North Korea and I had to bury him at 3:00 a.m. in secret. I was 14 years old. I couldn’t even cry. I was afraid to be sent back to North Korea. The day I escaped North Korea, I saw my mother raped. The rapist was a Chinese broker. He targeted me. I was 13 years old. There is a saying in North Korea, “when men are weak, our mothers are strong.” My mother allowed herself to be raped in order to protect me. North Korean refugees, about three hundred thousand are vulnerable in China. 70% of North Korean women and teenage girls are being victimized, sometimes sold for as little as 200 dollars.
We walked across the Gobi desert following a compass. When this stopped working, we followed the stars to freedom. I felt only the stars would lead us. Mongolia was our freedom moment. Death or dignity. And with the knives, we were prepared to kill ourselves if we were going to be sent back to North Korea. We wanted to live as humans. People often ask me, “how can you help North Koreans?” There are many ways but I would like to mention three for now. One, educate yourself so that you can raise awareness about human crisis in North Korea. Two, help and support North Korean refugees who are trying to escape to freedom. Three, petition China’s repatriation. We have to shine a light on the darkest place in the world.
It isn’t just North Korean human rights, it’s our rights that North Korean dictators have violated for seven decades. We need governments all around the world to put pressure on China to stop repatriation. In particular, Chinese delegates of One Young World can play a part by speaking up. North Korea is indescribable. No humans deserve to be oppressed just because of their birth place. We need to focus less on the regime and more on the people who are being forgotten. One Young World, we are the ones who make them visible. Fellow delegates, please join me as you make this a global movement to free North Koreans. When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much.”